64 of the Worst Things Ever Said to a Griever

We recently asked our Facebook readers the following questions: “What is the best thing anyone has said to you in your grief?” and “What is the worst thing anyone has said to you in your grief?”

As the title of this post suggests, today we’re talking about some of the negative comments that were shared with us. Honestly, we’ve been talking about what not to say to people who are grieving since WYG’s inception. Most people get why this is a conversation worth having, but we do hear from our fair share of critics every time we do. I don’t know what to tell you other than, we believe there is some benefit in having an “Oh no he (or she) didn’t!” kind of moment, and don’t bother telling us there isn’t because we won’t believe you.

As they say, the struggle is real, and sometimes it helps to have space where we can connect and support one another over such a common experience. Sure, after writing several articles on this topic, some of what we have to say is redundant but – you know what? – it bears repeating.  This conversation never ceases to be necessary because every day new people become bereaved and new people take on the position of ‘supportive friend or family member’.

Being a supportive family member or friend can be tough because what to say and do in this position isn’t cut and dry. When reading through the responses we received for ‘best’ and ‘worst’ comments, we realized this concept can be downright perplexing.  We noticed that while some statements are objectively good or terrible, others seem only subjectively so.  And some statements made BOTH the best and the worst lists.

So what factors make a comment go one way or the other? Well, for starters, comments that are ill-timed, said by the wrong person, said to the wrong person, or simply thoughtless (see the chart below) can easily get people in trouble.


All of that said, we should get around to sharing the list. Next week, we will share the list of 64 of the best things ever said to a griever as a bit of a pallet cleanser, along with a few thoughts on some of the best ways to support a grieving person.

64 of the Worst Things Ever Said to a Griever

  1. “I thought you’d be over it by now!”
  2. People have been through worse.”
  3. “Buck up!”
  4. “Now she will never go to heaven. Why did the family burn her spirit?” [After hearing my loved one was cremated]
  5. “It’s not a big deal because, literally, everyone dies.”
  6. “Get over it.”
  7. I’ll call you, check in on you, and we can get together.” [But then never called]
  8. It’s kind of like you got divorced.”
  9. I hear that’s the worst way to die.”
  10. “If my child died, I would be happy because I would know he is in heaven.”
  11. You have to be strong.”
  12. Now you can live your own life rather than taking care of a disabled child.”
  13. Nothing [Made no acknowledgment]
  14. “What did he go and do now?” [Said to my mom after her son died]
  15. Don’t be depressed. No one likes people who are depressed”
  16. You’ve lost so many people, it probably doesn’t even phase you anymore.”
  17. My phone rang and it was a church “friend”. She asked me what was wrong, I told her my mother had just passed away a few hours before and she said, “Oh, don’t let anyone go through her house until I get there. I want to see what she had.”
  18. “You should be rejoicing!”
  19. “At least he made it to 92.”
  20. “Look in the bright side!”
  21. “We all have problems.”
  22.  When telling someone how I believe seeing cardinals is a sign: “That’s not theologically possible.”
  23. “What did you think was going to happen? He was a drug addict!”
  24. “Well, you know your father WILL marry again.” [Weeks after my mom died]
  25. “That’s life!”
  26.  “You’ve lost all of your joy.”
  27. “Everything happens for a reason.”
  28. “You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and move on”.
  29. “Your sad dreams and nightmares aren’t normal.”
  30. “Wow, they’re dropping like flies!” [On hearing of my husband’s death]
  31.  “You’re too young to know what real grief is.”
  32.  “I forgive you for being such a [email protected] I know you’re grieving.”
  33. I know how you feel.”
  34. God never gives you more than you can handle.”
  35.  In reference to a memory of my mum, “Just put it back in the drawer, it doesn’t belong here.”
  36.  “I don’t want to sound mean, but you need to move forward. She’s not coming back.”
  37. “Don’t be sad when there’s so much to be grateful for.”
  38. “God needed him more than you do.”
  39. She’s in a better place.”
  40. Well, you’re the man of the house now.” [Said to my 12-year-old son]
  41. I am going to hang up now – call me back when you stop crying.” 
  42. Everyone’s just waiting for you to snap because you have to.
  43. After our 20 yr old daughter died in a traffic accident, a lady said she knew how we felt because their dog had died the week before!
  44. “This is a day for celebration!” [At my mom’s memorial service]
  45. “If I went through everything you did, I’d have killed myself.”
  46. “That’s why you shouldn’t have had a lot of kids”
  47. “Remember, others have it worse than you.”
  48. “At least you’re young, you can have another.”
  49. “‘Snap out of it! People die.”
  50. “Give me $20 and I’ll give you a workbook.”
  51. That my loved one who wasn’t baptized was floating around in “purgatory.”
  52. “You can enter the room again when you stop crying.”
  53. “You’re being selfish.”
  54. “I can’t imagine what it was like for your mum when she died.”
  55. “It was her time.”
  56. Even this will pass.”
  57. “Life should be more than just grief – let it go.”
  58. When my mother had a moment of feeling better in her final days (i.e. terminal lucidity) the hospice worker told her, “People always feel better just before they die.” 
  59. “Losing your husband is nothing compared to the death of a parent. You can always replace your husband.”
  60.  Six months after the passing of my 18-year-old son, a woman that used to work for our family business (knew us well) walked up to me in the grocery store and asked me which son it was.
  61. “Why are you still sad for your son?”
  62.  Less than 24 hours after my dad passed his wife said, “He kept saying all day, that he thought you were mad at him because you hadn’t called in a week.”
  63. “This was obviously what she wanted.” [About a loved one who died by suicide]
  64. Someone I work with asked me if it was a good or bad thing my husband had died.

Oh hey, this pin supports the WYG website AND it comes in super handy for all those times when people try to console you with statements that begin with “At least…”.  Check it out!

September 13, 2018

20 responses on "64 of the Worst Things Ever Said to a Griever"

  1. After my mother died from pancreatic cancer, I found the question “How old was she?” to be painful. As if the person asking was going to make a judgement call on whether she’d had a long enough life. I found the response “She was old enough to be my mom.” therapeutic for me, and got the point across to the asker that it didn’t matter how old she was.

  2. I lost my father August 27. He hit his head in a fall and died of a massive brain bleed.
    Wost: “This too shall pass.”
    “I never understood why your father did not help you as much as he helped me”
    “Be strong”
    “Wish I had known that about your father earlier. I would have held him in higher regard”
    I’m amazed at how quickly people who you thought were your friends expect you to just pick up and move on.

  3. I got 59 – u can replace them! about a beloved pet & had to be removed from that clueless bastard’s presence…. I think if I ever hear that phrase again no matter who it’s about ain’t nothin gonna hold me back again. There’s definitely gonna be some sort of smacking happening!

  4. Soon after my husband died suddenly, my mom and I were talking about it. She actually told me she was glad it was me (that it happened to) and not her. I was speechless that she would callously say something like that. Of course I would never be glad for the same to happen to her plus I would lose my dad in the process. Why on earth would she be glad about something so devastating happening to her daughter? Hurtful!

  5. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child. My heart goes out to everyone.
    In a different vein, after the suicide of a genuinely beautiful, loved, respected friendfrom my graduating class (’80), people were understandably shocked. I was very sad, but understood a bit more. One comment that I still can’t wrap my head around: “this has shaken me to my core. How could this happen? We all grew up together and were cut from the same cloth.” (by a LCSW). I don’t know for certain, but suspect it was AD withdrawal (plus significant life stressors).

    I lost my only sibling to cancer in July. We didn’t have a good relationship and it wasn’t a secret. Even I am surprised at the complicated grief I’m experiencing. After opening up to some close friends about it, they still said “well, you didn’t like her, so you shouldn’t be grieving” and refused to visit (10 miles away) or call, stating that they were too busy. Messages of unsolicited advice were plentiful, however. not
    Iwill soon be the last of my family. No kids, nieces, nephews, career (disabled by Zoloft). Nobody comprehends the existential angst and isolation or attempts to.

    People have great power to help simply with their presence, but everyone wants to FIX things, advise, move on from the discomfort. Some things can’t be fixed.

  6. Louise McOrmond-PlummerSeptember 14, 2018 at 6:23 pmReply

    This is going to be a cranky rant:

    Some of the things above are stupid and thoughtless, and some of them are so jaw-droppingly awful one has to wonder if people are actually trying to be assholes. I am so sorry you’ve had to hear these things. I know we often hear that people say the wrong things because they’re well-intentioned and just uncomfortable, so we should be tolerant. I think that can be true sometimes, but I also think there’s a time for telling people when they’re bang out of order. We don’t always have room to consider people who are plainly not considering us. Telling people how they should feel is NEVER a good idea.

    The worst statements, for me, are those that try to “correct” your grief – i.e. “At least you had 30 years” (and the unspoken part is, “So stop being sad”). We feel inadequate and confused, and wonder if there is something wrong with the way we’re grieving. But what is wrong is this advice – it feels shitty because it IS shitty.

    Having lost my darling husband of 30 years to cancer almost two years ago, the most objectionable advice about “Moving on” and “Letting go” and finding somebody else has come from women whose husbands are still alive. A sister-in-law told me three times in the first three months to
    “Get on with my life.” The third time, I asked her where her husband is. She HAS the life she knew to get on with; my life had been blown apart – I didn’t even know what it was anymore. I recognize it’s just a stupid platitude, but how dare she?

    I also have a major beef with people who – and this came in the first WEEK of Ken’s death – want to go on about you meeting somebody else. When you tell them you are not interested, they ARGUE: “Oh well, you’ll change your mind one day.” With respect to the subject of possibly having another partner in the future, I think it’s best to let the widowed person lead. Let him or her be the one to raise that; if they don’t or if they say they’re not interested, have enough respect for their process to SHUT UP. Do not presume to argue with them – it’s their life.

    One of the most beautiful responses I had when Ken passed, was to sit with a grief and loss worker looking at photographs. I was howling, and this beautiful lady said, “Darling, your heart has been broken, hasn’t it?” She was allowing me to be right where I was at. Any beautiful statements that acknowledge that Ken will always be a part of my life are also most helpful (as long as they aren’t accompanied by “but”), The best statements also honour my journey – i.e. “I’m proud of your efforts, Louise, in the face of something so tough.”

  7. My 28 yr old nephew died from an accidental drug overdose 3 months after my father died. One of my “friends” asked if we were having a service for him (as if we wouldn’t because he was a drug addict).

    When I was struggling with putting my father in a nursing home before he died this same “friend” said “get over it – everyone goes through it”.

    People are just stupid

  8. My mother passed because her immune system was compromised from her cancer treatments and she developed an infection that she could not fight. Ten months later my father passed, he had Lewy Body Dementia and a broken heart. On the day of my father’s funeral a realtor, that I did not have a contract with, called me and wanted to show my father’s house, I said no, I was getting ready for his funeral. She responded, “How did I not know about this?” then “Well, you don’t have to be there, I can still show the house, I just need a key.” I said, “No,” she became irritated. Needless to say, when I was ready, I contracted with another realtor.

  9. Bad- Your dad would not like to see you still grieving.
    Worse – Your dad cannot rest in peace until you stop being so sad.
    Best – My best friend climbed over a locked wrought iron gate to be with me because she just “felt” that I needed her.

  10. A couple of weeks after my husband died, at home, in our bed, an acquaintance asked me if I was getting used to sleeping alone. I was too shocked at the question to explain that I hadn’t slept alone yet. My close girlfriends rotated sleeping with me until I was ready to go it alone. She didn’t have a clue how callous her question was.

  11. My adult son died in a motorbike accident. His partner lost her first husband in a car accident. Several stupid men said that ‘they wouldn’t want to be her third’. To this day, 11 years down the road of grief, I still can’t fathom how bloody stupid some people are.

  12. When my dear grandmother died, “Oh, she was old, then.”

  13. Unhelpful:
    Exactly (6) days after my grandmother’s passing in Dec. someone called me cheering “Happy New Year!” Note: This person knew I was grieving. It was insensitive. I certainly wasn’t happy.

    Helpful:
    After losing a family member to suicide, someone asked me, “How are you doing?” I find that simple heartfelt comments always help during inmense pain.

  14. I gave my partner unsuccessful CPR before the pros finally showed up. Two weeks later a “friend” said, “Now that you have experience with dead bodies…”

    Hearing terrible things is obviously one of the things that binds us together. Fortunately, the reactions we hear, bad and good (or crickets), are also a fantastic measure of who our real friends and family are… and who isn’t worth the time.

  15. I was told one month after my husband ” You know You are not the only women who has lost a husband. Also, not everyone has a happy marriage” I was dumbfounded.

  16. Your bad Karma is the reason why your son is dead this from my oldest Sister

  17. A good friend of mine, who is a licensed social worker, said “Suicide, a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” This was after my beautiful 28 year old daughter, a girl whom he had known since she was 7, died by suicide. The only way I have been able to forgive him is to remember he was gravely I’ll at the time. I can forgive him but I can’t forget it.

    I had so many best moments, that I can’t remeber them all but one that stands out for me was a coworker who simple said “it’s good to see you” once I returned to work.

  18. I cannot fathom why people say what they say when someone passes. I know that I will never ask a griever to let me know what they need and I’ll be there. How do you know what you need? I only needed my mother and that couldn’t happen. And it’s absolutely mind boggling the number of folk that said I’m here for you. I’ll be in touch. I’m still waiting to hear from them. My Aunt told me that she would be there for me but it was clear from a telephone conversation in the early days that was not the case at all. However, she did not have an issue making sure that I was aware that my mother had told her that she could have a certain broach (even before my Mother’s last party) and that perhaps my family could find something of my mother’s for her children. My young cousin and his partner brought over a crockpot full of chili and all the fixing the Sunday after my mom’s last party and that was the very best thing that someone could have done for me and mine. When it is my turn to comfort a griever, I will clean a bathroom, make food, run errands, wash floors – anything at all but I will not ask them to let me know what they need. I will not say I’m here for you and quickly disappear. I will not ask for a memento of the person that passed for me or for my children.

  19. My entire family walked away from us when my husband died. It has been 4 years and nothing has changed. And all those wonderful friends at the funeral who volunteered (remember I said volunteered) to visit us and do anything we needed, well we never heard from any of them either. All of these people give the grieving hope and then take it away. Someday they will walk in our shoes and I hope they clearly see our pain.

  20. As of September 22nd, it will have been 15 months since our son died. Not a peep out my sister. Not a single syllble. I’ll never be able to have a relationship with her even again. I’m deeply hurt.

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